Sunday 31 March 2024

Tayta’s Secret Ingredient

Tayta’s Secret Ingredient by Amal Abu-Eid (MidnightSun Publishing), RRP $29.99 Picture Book ISBN 9-781922-858122

Reviewed by Susan Hancy

Billy’s class at school will be celebrating diverse cultures and traditions on Harmony Day and Billy is keen to bring a traditional Lebanese treat to share. His tayta (grandmother) is happy to make a type of sweet biscuit called kaak for him to take and she plans to use her secret ingredient. Billy knows she had ingredients in her pantry that he’s unfamiliar with, but can’t work out what the secret one could be. He can’t look at a recipe to discover what it is because Tayta bakes by memory and uses feel, sight and smell to get it right. Even when Billy helps her prepare the dough, he can’t see the special thing that she’s added. Eventually Tayta tells him her secret. How should Billy respond when his teacher thinks the kaak is so delicious that she asks him to share the recipe?


This is a sweet story for children aged 4 to 7 from an author keen to see her Lebanese Australian culture represented in picture books. Through the story and illustrations by Cara King, we learn about traditional Lebanese dress and baking. This story got my own kids chatting about their favourite treats that we’ve baked together and I asked them to guess what the secret ingredient was going to be. They had a question at the end, though: now that we’re privy to Tayta’s secret ingredient, could Billy please share the recipe? This would have been a great inclusion as an appendix.

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